Meet Our New Team Members

As we get closer to opening—and, yes, we are getting very much closer to opening—we wanted to introduce you to the team members we’ve brought on board to help us grow up better and faster at Garden Path Fermentation. You’ve already met Jason Hansen, our Lead Fermentationist, and Saul Phillips, our Lead Agriculturalist, but here are the people who will be helping them farm and ferment.

Jacob Grisham



As far as we can tell, Jacob has literally all the skills. He’s a former restauranteur and a general contractor, with a love of fermentation and some impressive cider certifications. Right now, he’s acting as our buildout rockstar, making our tasting room more beautiful than we could have ever imagined. Soon enough, though, we’ll get him in an orchard taking care of some apples and helping to make some Skagit cider and wine.

Star sign: Aquarius

Character class: Sorcerer

Secret superpower: Shiplap!

Favorite Monkee: Mike Nesmith

Desert island beer: Pacifico


Matthew Edwards


Matthew comes to us with a very strong fermentation background, as a former senior brewer/cellerman at Allagash Brewing in Portland, Maine; lead brewer at Fremont Brewing in Seattle; and production manager at Kombucha Town in Bellingham. His real passion, though, is agriculture, and we’re excited about his vision for our farm acreage.

Star sign: Gemini

Character class: Cleric

Secret superpower: Ability to subsist entirely on good cheese

Favorite Monkee: Mickey Dolenz

Desert island beer: Jack’s Abby Hoponius Union


Sam Hutchens



Sam has an extensive fermentation background, from several years as a cellerman and vineyard employee at Mount Baker Vineyards in Deming, Washington, to his current position as Assistant Brewer at Stone’s Throw Brewery in Bellingham. He has a wonderful palate and crazy mixed fermentation skills. Sam will be helping us out on the brew deck and in the cellar when he’s not at Stone’s Throw or fishing in Alaska.

Star sign: Gemini

Character class: Druid

Secret superpower: Fish whisperer

Favorite Monkee: Peter Tork

Desert island beer: De La Senne Taras Boulba


Scout Caldwell


Scout is another multitalented individual, with a vast wine and beer retail history and some very amazing art skills. Before moving to Washington, she lived in Santa Cruz, California, where she worked at Sante Adairius Rustic Ales as a beertender and on the packaging team, as well as at Soif, where she honed her wine knowledge. She currently works behind the bar at Skagit’s Bastion Brewery. We’re looking forward to having her in the front of the house, as well as seeing her artwork come to life on our walls and in our merchandise.

Star sign: Aries

Character class: Ranger

Secret superpower: Cat poetry

Favorite Monkee: Davy Jones

Desert island beer: Schlenkerla Helles


We've Found a Starter Home!

It’s been a process, folks.

If you’ve been following our progress in our quarterly updates in CRAFT by Under My Host or read the recent Draft magazine article about us, you know that our biggest challenge up to this point has been finding a location for our brewery. From the beginning, our dream has involved three aspects: creating a farm brewery, where we grow a large portion of our own ingredients; making beer, wine, cider, and mead solely from our own crops and other locally grown products; and building a tasting room where you and all your loved ones can enjoy a peaceful afternoon in the majestic Skagit countryside drinking all its fermented bounties. It sounds cheesy, but it’s also why we came here. Northwest Washington is one of the few places in the country, maybe the world, where everything you need to make beer grows naturally, with a gentle enough climate to support natural fermentation without temperature control. Skagit County has some of the best soil in the world in which to grow these ingredients, and it’s also always pretty damn beautiful here. We want to share this place we love with the rest of the world, through our products, and by inviting everyone to our tasting room to experience it themselves.


It’s not really a post about Skagit without a picture of tulips. True story.

We’ve been in the Skagit Valley for a year now, but finding a location that will allow us to achieve all three of our goals in the same place—farming, fermenting, and operating a tasting room—has proven difficult. While Washington State beer laws are incredibly friendly to small breweries, water rights, wastewater, and zoning issues make it very difficult to make beer and operate a tasting room on agricultural land here. Finding a place to grow, brew, and cater to the public all in the same space, while obeying the letter and spirit of the law, has been virtually impossible.

But we’ve found a solution that will allow us to get started. One of our biggest supporters in the county, even before we arrived in Washington, has been the Port of Skagit, a county entity that not only controls actual ports, but is also one of the biggest economic development engines in the area. The Port has been a dream to work with, and we’ve been in discussions for a while about a Port-owned parcel of land that has industrial zoning but will be farmable with a bit of work. The land has access to all utilities—including water and sewer!—but the downside is that it’s vacant. We’ll have to build out from scratch. Building in Washington is definitely seasonal. By the time we had started the discussions, the earliest we could project a fully functional newly built space would be late 2018, and that’s with everything going perfectly according to schedule. Which never happens.

The clear advantage is that a from-scratch buildout would allow us to create our perfect space. However, we’ve built an amazing team and a lot of momentum at this point. Waiting an extra year and half to open would be incredibly disheartening for all of us, and might cause us to lose both.

But the Port, being amazing, has offered us a perfect interim solution. There’s a newly vacant building in their airport complex—which also houses such inspiring entities as Chuckanut Brewery, Skagit Valley Malting, Viva Farms, the Washington State University Bread Lab, Skagit Valley College’s Cardinal Craft Brewing Academy, and the Skagit outpost of Flyers Restaurant and Brewhouse. It’s a site that’s becoming a food and beer mecca. Which, it looks like, will now include Garden Path Fermentation. Not to bury the lede, but we signed a lease last week.


Ron, signing a lease.

The space itself isn’t what we initially imagined. It’s an industrial building, formerly home to a graphic design and screenprinting company. We’ll need to repurpose what is currently a less-than-cozy office space to create a tasting room, and there are definitely no brewery infrastructure necessities like floor drains. But there’s plumbing, septic, and three-phase power. There’s a 5,000 square foot building. A wooded lot. Parking. Bathrooms. Room for a small beer garden. It’s a space where, with only a little work, we can get started. We’ll cut floor drains. We’ll paint walls and rip out office carpeting to create a tasting room. Since we don’t plan to make wort onsite, we don’t need to do quite as much infrastructural work as we would if we had a brewhouse.

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It may not look super exciting now–but wait.

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Future barrel room

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Future (soon to be much more inviting) tasting room

There’s work to be done, clearly. But with this space, it looks more and more like, as Ron and I promised when we left Jester King, we may still be open in some capacity sometime in 2017. Really. We almost can’t believe it, either.

We’re still working out the details of the lease for the industrial/agricultural land, but we expect that to happen sometime in the next few weeks. This will allow us (well, mostly Saul, our Lead Agriculturalist) to start taming the land and creating soil amenable to a cider apple/perry pear orchard (and potentially a hop farm?) as soon as possible. But at this point, our plan still remains to build something much closer to our dream brewery on that site.

This does present a clear challenge for us, though. Building out on the vacant parcel means our time in the startup space will almost certainly be limited. Which also means our renovations will need to be limited, just enough to get us started with both a brewery and a tasting room. We don’t want to blow our entire startup budget on renovations to this space, when the money can instead go to building our dream Skagit barn/brewery. With that said, we are still going to have to devote some time, energy, and money to getting up and running in our initial space, which may push our timetable for building the new space back a bit.

But it does mean we can get started! We can make beer, wine, cider, and mead with the fantastic native Skagit microbes Jason, our Lead Fermentationist, has been cultivating over the past year! Very soon, we will be able to invite you to drink it (We’ve already put in our federal brewery and winery permit applications)! And that, ultimately, is the most important thing for us. We’ve been itching to stop making financial projection spreadsheets and start fermenting delicious things for y’all to drink. This is our chance. Real-life dreams don’t happen overnight, and we’re doing what we can to realize ours sooner rather than later.

To quote our latest article in CRAFT, “We’re following our own garden path, which, as we should have predicted, isn’t always taking us exactly where we’d anticipated. However, we’re pretty sure it’s leading us somewhere special. Via the scenic route.”

Thank you all for your support while we have inadvertently taken the scenic route. We hope that as Garden Path Fermentation continues to grow, the “scenic route” will begin to apply more to our beverages than our building, but we hope you continue to enjoy the journey.


Meet Garden Path Fermentation's Lead Agriculturalist, Saul Phillips

Our mission at Garden Path Fermentation is to make delicious fermented beverages (and maybe foods, someday) using the abundant agricultural resources available to us here in the Skagit Valley, including some ingredients that we plan to grow ourselves.  To do this most effectively, we will need someone who knows the land, what grows here, and how it grows, and who can work with farmers throughout the valley to help us find the best possible ingredients with which to work.  That person will be our Lead Agriculturalist, Saul Phillips.

Photo of Garden Path Fermentation Lead Agriculturalist Saul Phillips

Garden Path Fermentation Lead Agriculturalist Saul Phillips

We first met Saul in October while visiting the WSU Extension Campus in Mount Vernon, where he currently works, helping tend to their research orchard, which includes more than 70 varietals of cider apples, 15 varieties of perry pears, and numerous other fruit trees.  When Saul, an accomplished amateur cidermaker and homebrewer, began telling us about his ideas for commercial production of spontaneously fermented cider and perry, we immediately knew that we had much more to discuss.  As part of our team, Saul will also continue to spend a portion of his time assisting with the WSU orchard and will serve as liaison between Garden Path Fermentation and the WSU Extension. By fostering this relationship, we will develop our goal of being involved in community education and outreach here in the Skagit Valley. 



Saul working with native Skagit Valley yeast

Saul’s interest in cider and perry led him to attend this year’s Cider Con in Chicago, where he had an opportunity to network, taste cider, and exchange ideas with cidermakers and other industry professionals from all over the world.  He offered the following thoughts: 


At Cider Con 2017, held this year in Chicago, IL, I got a chance to taste a broad range of ciders. While mixed culture and wild fermentation were a predictably small share of the industry, they were some of the most inspiring examples of cider craft. Considering America’s muddled relationship with cider where many examples on the market are essentially alcoholic soda, we can learn a great deal from our European brethren whose spontaneously fermented cider tradition continues unbroken by any past dalliance with alcohol prohibition.

An especially interesting area of research from Dr. Bradshaw’s lab at the University of Vermont is looking at the commercial viability of minimal pruning, a low-input strategy that jives well with our plans for minimal input, sustainable poly-culture on the land at Garden Path. I look forward to more definitive results over the next few years of the study.

Cider Con gave me a useful view of the cider market and producer strategies. Our plans for Garden Path, wild fermentation and sustainable poly-culture agriculture, fly in the face of the status quo, and I welcome the challenge! Since helping to press juice from my grandmother’s apple orchard as a child, I’ve been an apple aficionado and very much look forward to highlighting in fermentation the unique qualities of fruit grown here in the bountiful Skagit Valley.

Jason Hansen Joining Garden Path Fermentation


We are thrilled to announce that Jason Hansen, formerly of Sante Adairius Rustic Ales in Capitola, California, will be joining Garden Path Fermentation as our Lead Fermentationist. We’re incredibly lucky to be able to bring him on board. Jason has spent the last three years as Head Brewer at SARA, where he oversaw an extensive mixed fermentation and barrel program, and, frankly, made some of our favorite beers in the world. Jason’s vast experience creating and brewing both complex-yet-approachable clean beers as well as delicate, nuanced barrel-aged mixed fermentations makes him the ideal person to head up Garden Path’s fermentation program. He’ll be in charge of our beer, wine, cider, and mead production, and we can’t wait to see what he’ll do with the amazing fermentables in Skagit Valley.

Welcome to Garden Path Fermentation

GPF LogoBrewing industry veterans Ron Extract and Amber Watts will be opening Garden Path Fermentation, a destination farmhouse brewery, cidery, meadery, and winery, in Skagit County, Washington in 2017.

The goal of Garden Path Fermentation is to produce hand-crafted beer, cider, wine, mead, and other fermented products that showcase the natural resources of the beautiful Skagit Valley, nestled between the North Cascades and the Pacific Ocean, and home to some of the most fertile soil on earth. Barley, apples, pears, grapes, hops, and berries all thrive in Skagit’s climate, and the abundant assets in the area—including craft maltster Skagit Valley Malting and a bounty of generations-old small family farms—make it possible for Garden Path Fermentation to source the vast majority of its ingredients solely from the Valley. All products will be fermented with a mixed culture of naturally occurring microbes cultivated from the brewery site and will take advantage of the temperate year-round climate of northwest Washington to minimize the need for temperature control during fermentation while showcasing the region’s distinct seasons.

Garden Path Fermentation’s co-creators, Ron Extract and Amber Watts, have a long history in the brewing industry. Most recently, they were at Jester King Brewery in Austin, TX, where Ron was an owner and managing partner, and Amber helped manage the tasting room and front office. While it was inspiring to be part of the team that helped Jester King grow into a world-class farmhouse brewery, Ron and Amber were ready to start their own project from the ground up.

The name Garden Path Fermentation stems from the idea that a garden path is an indirect way to get from Point A to Point B. It’s the scenic route that, more likely than not, leads you somewhere unexpected. Mixed-culture products take time to ferment, and tend toward complex, interesting flavor profiles that may be surprising to the palate; they’re fermentation’s way of taking you “down the garden path” to a place you may not have thought you’d end up. The name was also partially inspired by Ron and Amber’s appreciation of “garden path sentences”—sentences that initially appear incomplete or nonsensical, but that, when interpreted correctly, are actually completely coherent and grammatically correct.

Garden Path’s logo was created in collaboration with and illustrated by Skagit Valley artist and designer R. Ben Turpin, whose other work can be seen on his website at

There will be exciting news about location, staffing, and timing in the very near future. Follow Garden Path Fermentation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or subscribe to the mailing list for further updates on the project. Please direct all press inquiries to